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February 07, 2005

Comments

billy-jay

The world will never burn all its fossil fuels. At some point, the cost to extract and refine them will increase to the point where other energy sources are more affordable. That's when they'll be phased out naturally.

chad

A third alternative is to increase the amount of soot in the atmosphere which would serve much the same purpose.

http://www.grist.org/news/maindish/2004/09/22/keen-dimming/

austroblogger

so errr... increasing the economic cost of extraction and usage would lower the threshold for other forms of energy...
Whatever happens, the problem becomes one of choosing whether to asphyxiate on industrial gasses, poison the ground with filter residues or live with nuclear problems. I just cant see truly alternative energy forms producing the yield needed to satisfy our demand in the time available. So i guess it is a nuclear future. Which is going to be too cute when the arab states run out of oil :)

Outlaw3

Giant reflectors. Whoa! That is some far thinking there!

I like the idea of using the same technology in the little automobile electric coolers, two different metals are put together and when current is applied in one direction you get heat, in the other direction you get cooling. Now I just need a really big fan.

Maybe there is a way to capture the sunlit side's warming with a large solar heat sink, then pipe it to the dark side of the planet and radiate it there, thus evening out the total temperature change the planet is forced through on a daily basis.

Eric

First, there is some very questionable science being used to validate the global warming hypothesis.

Second, raising the cost of fossil fuels will not make alternative energy sources more attractive because no one will accept the one alternative energy source on the earth's surface that will actually work.

Third, the typical thought process here does not seem to involve how to change the paradigm, but rather how to get everyone to commit to the mediocre future that the environmental extremists want. Let's change the paradigm, Kyoto doesn't do that. At least LG is proposing a way to change it.

That said, what is really needed is a realization that all energy sources on the surface of the planet are limited and finite. See this post for the thoughts of an avid sci fi reader AND engineer on what we might be able to do to change the paradigm, provide a much brighter future for the entirety of the human race and substantially reduce the cost of energy.

Of course the reality is that we have allowed the neo-luddites to gain control of energy production and we deserve what we get for that.

Apesnake

There are some enviro-types that are not all doom and gloom.

As far as increasing vegetation, this can best be managed by tackle another environmental issue at the same time, namely habitat loss. As farm productivity has increased due to modern agricultural techniques, more land is reverting to wilderness. It would only make sense for wildlife types to use their property rights under free market systems to purchase and preserve this and untouched land (isn't this what Ducks Unlimited does?)

There are also many new technologies being explored for renewables (micro hydro turbines, solar thermal power) - and in case you think that renewables can't survive without government subsidies you might be interested that the world's largest market for solar power is currently phasing out government subsidies by 2006.

New Scientist recently quoted a report that claimed that 50% of America's oil usage could be cut with more efficient technology. Not shivering in the dark, not shutting down factories, just investing in newer generators, cars, insulation etc. This planet has vast tracts of desert that are currently doing nothing but absorbing sun light and being swept by wind. New thermal solar stations could turn the Sahara into the new Saudi Arabia if someone would get off their ass.

Huge amounts of energy and carbon that have been captured by the sun each year and are available in the form of sewage, farm waste etc. are destined to return to the atmosphere as carbon while powering nothing more than bacteria. There are lots of engineers working on ways to reclaim this energy that we worked so hard to collect.

Oil can even be made artificially by breaking down carbohydrates and similar organic chemicals (thermal depolymerization TDP). There is no reason to believe civilization can't be made sustainable without living like the Amish. There is a solution to every problem as long as you look for it.

www.worldchanging.com is a site that focuses on development issues that work. While they sometimes go more eco-greeny/climate changey than I would like, they have lots of links to local sustainable energy solutions for both rich and poor communities.

Anono Mus Joker

"Let's cool the planet using big reflectors"

Like bicycle reflectors? Or we could cover the earth with tinfoil (and butter with bacon bits and chives!).

Jacqueline

Have you read The Skeptical Environmentalist? I think you'd like it.

Eric

Apesnake, I agree with your sentiments and even with some of what is being done. But ultimately I still believe that those are not things that change the paradigm. I still fully believe the solution to energy sources and pollution is to be found in earth orbit (and ultimately the entire solar system) not on the planet. You are right that a significant part of the problem is (to paraphrase) not seeing the forest for the trees. I would argue that those who are exploring the alternative renewable energy sources on the earth's surface can see one grove, but still can't see the whole forest.

Solar energy in the desert, replacing current aged electricity generators, increasing the use of nuclear energy (which is an obviously much better solution than burning oil and natural gas), etc. will not happen because (to quote myself): ... the reality is that we have allowed the neo-luddites to gain control of energy production and we deserve what we get for that.

Until we stand up and tell the neo-luddites who want to live in huts and caves to shut the hell up we are dooming the majority of the human race to living in energy poverty. The single most significant economic problem facing the world today is energy cost.

David Foster

A/S, I'm sure you're right that many energy efficiency improvements are both possible & feasible. But remember...when you replace an existing generator or air conditioner with a newer and more efficient model, there is an energy cost involved in the manufacture of the new item--making steel or aluminum takes a lot of energy--and this cost needs to be factored into the lifecycle energy balance of the improvement.

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